You recognize the feelings of fatigue and not having enough time for yourself. You might even realize that you’re a little more short-tempered than usual, and you don’t have the usual bounce-back ability when things go wrong.
But do you really know how the stress of being a family caregiver is affecting your body and your life?
Researchers recently reported on a newly discovered physical impact of the stress of caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease in the June 8, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
What the researchers found was a direct relationship between how impaired the person dementia rated and the level of flow-mediated dilation (FMD). While this sounds mysteriously complicated, in simple terms, the more impaired your FMD is, the higher your risk for cardiovascular events like a heart attack or stroke.
It’s not surprising to me that individuals who are caring for higher demand loved ones suffer physical problems at a higher rate.
We’ve known for a long time, in fact, that these special caregivers suffer more sickness and a higher rate of death than their peers who are not caregivers.
But for the average caregiver, they’re just doing what they have to do, without realization of the stress it may be causing their bodies.
How do you know if you’re too stressed? Ask yourself these questions Do you feel like you’ve lost your energy or enthusiasm for life?
Do you feel tired or exhausted much of the time?
Do you feel out of control and sometimes show emotions that aren’t normal for you?
Do you feel nervous, anxious or tense much of the time?
Do you feel like you’re becoming isolated from your friends and family members?
Do you have sleep problems – getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking up too early? Do you feel like you need to sleep all the time?
Do you have problems concentrating or remembering things?
Are you experiencing more illnesses than usual for you? Colds, upset stomach, headaches? Is your blood pressure higher than it should be?
Even one or two YES answers indicate that your work as a caregiver is causing you stress.
What can you do?
Start by taking stock of the things that most challenge you in your caregiving work. Then start looking for resources to help you with those challenges.
These resources may be family members – tell them what you need. Don’t wait for them to volunteer their help.
It’s also time to call in the paid helpers. Perhaps some in-home care will relieve you enough to regain your health and your sanity.
Perhaps it’s time to look at an assisted living community or other level of facility care.
Ask around in your community for other programs and services that might work in your unique situation.
Here’s the bottom line: as a caregiver, if you don’t take care of yourself FIRST you won’t be around to care for your loved one. It’s a simple fact.
Did you know that one sure way to reduce caregiver stress is to learn tips and techniques to make your caregiving work easier? Check out a caregiver training course in your community today or go online to learn more from www.caringformom.com.